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SUSPENSE an introduction
Copyright Jim Widner (email@example.com)
18 Oct 1994
On September 30, 1962 a major milestone in radio drama came to an end with the final episode of the long running series, SUSPENSE. Ironically, the episode was titled "Devil Stone" and was the last dramatic radio play from a series that had its roots in the golden age of radio.
What began as a "new series frankly dedicated to your horrification and entertainment" took on a life of its own mostly due to the talents of some outstanding producers and adaptations and original stories from the cream of mystery writers of the time. The golden age of radio was truly the golden age of SUSPENSE as show after show broadcast outstanding plays which were "calculated to intrigue...stir [the] nerves."
It was the series' first producer, William Spier, who set the framework of rules that was to stay with the show for most of its run. Mr. Spier determined that the series should deal with life-and-death situations established near the beginning of each play and then through the use of Bernard Herrmann's musical coloring and the writer's characterizations slowly tighten the knot of SUSPENSE. Many of the early stories were written by the mystery writer, John Dickson Carr. Others were by such fine writers as Lucille Fletcher, whose SUSPENSE play, "Sorry, Wrong Number" was turned into a major motion picture; Robert Arthur, Robert L. Richards, Morton Fine and David Friedkin. The series also drew from the mystery writers of the day as well as the horror writers of literature; writers such as Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Cornell Woolrich, Dorthy L. Sayers and H.G. Wells.
Many of the stories produced by Mr. Spier are now classics of the genre. Listen to the likes of "The House in Cypress Canyon" as a young couple encounters something in the closet of their new home, something horrible and dangerous; or "The Hitchhiker" in which a man driving cross-country seems to be haunted by an ominous figure, who keeps reappearing trying to get a ride. But what foreboding does the hitchhiker hold for the driver?
Another rule William Spier established was to make the series a place to hear the talents of Hollywood's famous actors. There rarely was a famous actor who did not appear on the series at some time. Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, Lucille Ball, Olivia De Havilland and many others all made at least one appearance. The series had a generous budget from its network, CBS.
In 1948 the series had become popular enough that it was decided to broadcast for a complete hour, instead of the former thirty minutes. The actor Robert Montgomery was brought in to introduce the plays, replacing the "Man in Black" character and occasionally star in them. This format lasted only six months most probably due to the realization that the show worked best within a thirty minute framework.
It was at this time that William Spier left and over the years others came to produce the shows, each setting his own unique mark. Anton M. Leader, who came from producing another horror radio program, MURDER AT MIDNIGHT, added some lighter SUSPENSE stories which focused more on the central characters. Jimmy Stewart appeared in an excellent story about a paralysed war veteran who thinks he has found the man who imprisoned and tortured him. Fibber McGee & Molly appeared in a tale about a killer on the loose in "Backseat Driver."
Probably the biggest change in SUSPENSE came under the producing eye of Elliott Lewis. Lewis brought in comic actors to play serious roles. Actors such as Jack Benny, Red Skelton and Ozzie Nelson. He also was not afraid to experiment using the series slot for classic "murder" stories such as "Othello."
The series continued to produce high-quality drama, though there were many repeats as well as borrowing of scripts from other radio shows. While a number of film actors continued to star occasionally, many of the stars were from radio and television since radio as a dramatic art form was beginning to lose its popularity and budgets were tightened.
The show was on the air for a little over twenty years beginning in January, 1942 and was rarely pre-empted. There were 947 performances. Nearly all (approximately 895) are available to collectors. When SUSPENSE left the air, radio was never to see the likes of such a series again. Now the great medium of radio where imagination can run free has been reduced to the occasional brilliant drama airing sporadically in some corner of the world. SUSPENSE was a golden moment in a golden age. A moment when the thrill of the nightime led the listener along the path of intrigue, horror and dangerous adventure.
Permission for use granted by Jim Widner
From the Old Time Radio Researchers Group. See "Notes" Section below for more information on the OTRR.
It contains the most complete and accurate version of this series in the best sound possible at the time of creation. An updated version will be issued if more episodes or better sounding ones become available.
This is the Single Episodes Page. The Certified Set includes extras not found here. It is located at OTRR Certified Set. This Single Episodes page is provided in case you want to sample the shows.Note that in many cases, file names have been modified from the original OTRR names to conform to archive.org naming requirements.
If you are interested in preserving Old Time Radio (OTR), you may wish to join the Old Time Radio Researchers Group at Facebook and Groups.io.
Relax, listen, and enjoy!
OTRR Maintained Set -- This set contains all known episodes in the best available audio condition with the most accurate dates and titles known to be in general circulation and based on current research at the time of release. Replaces OTRR Certified Accurate and OTRR Certified Complete.
OTRR Non-Maintained Set -- A collection of shows that has not gone through the OTRR Maintenance process.
Pre-2019 OTRR Definitions:
OTRR Certified Accurate -- A series that was "Certified Accurate" indicated that all the episodes were properly identified and labeled based on current information but that the series did not contain all known extant episodes.
OTRR Certified Complete -- A series that was "Certified Complete" achieved the highest level of certification available under the OTRR Certified Standards. This certification level implied that all the files in the series were "Certified Accurate" and also indicated that the series was as complete as possible and included all circulating episodes.
OTRR Non-Certified -- A collection of shows that has not gone through the OTRR Certification process.
Also, beginning in 2019, the version numbers of our OTRR releases changed format -- instead of v1.0 or v2.1, we are now using a version number that reflects the year and month the set was released. The format used is a two-digit year followed by a two-digit month. For example, "v1906" indicates a set that was released in June 2019, or "v1910" indicates a set released in October 2019.
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It took a while, but I finally made it through this fantastic collection. I admit that there were quite a few episodes that I didn't love, but the number of absolute classic OTR episodes found in this series more than make up for the ones I didn't care for.
My top 15 episodes (not in order):
The Hitchhiker (09.02.42)
The Sin Eater (07.08.62)
Donovan's Brain (05.18.44)
The Man Who Knew How to Hate (07.16.61)
Three Skeleton Key (11.11.56)
The House in Cypress Canyon (12.05.46)
The Strange Death of Charles Umberstein (11.23.43)
The Yellow Wallpaper (07.29.48)
Dark Journey (04.25.46)
Sorry, Wrong Number (11.18.48)
Never Steal a Butcher's Wife (12.29.57)
Deep, Deep is My Love (04.26.59)
Some more good episodes:
The Lost Special (09.30.43)
Lunch Kit (04.12.55)
Crime Without Passion (05.02.46)
The Waxwork (03.01.59)
Three Blind Mice (01.30.47)
Blood Sacrifice (03.30.50)
Love, Honor, or Murder (06.29.50)
The Long Wait (11.24.49)
The Day I Died (06.30.49)
The Perfectionist (01.21.52)
A Vision of Death (03.08.51))
Remember Me (05.03.55)
Variations on a Theme (02.07.56)
Quiet Night (03.06.56)
A Case of Identity (09.25.56)
The Digger (10.09.56)
The Black Door (11.19.61)
Some episodes that I liked but that I think were a bit flawed:
John Barbey and Son (2.22.45)
The Pasteboard Box (01.17.46)
The Too Perfect Alibi (01.13.49)
On a Country Road (11.16.50)
Final Payment (01.13.55)
Classified Secret (11.22.55)
Present Tense (03.03.57)
Fly By Night (09.28.50)
Murder Strikes Three Times (02.16.50)
A few random thoughts:
Orson Welles is a genius.
William Conrad is the king of OTR voice actors.
"The Yellow Wallpaper" is probably the best audio horror story I've ever heard. Agnes Moorehead is rightfully famed for her fantastic performance in "Sorry, Wrong Number" but I think she tops herself with "The Yellow Wallpaper."
"Kaleidoscope" is a phenomenal ensemble piece by the veteran character actors who worked for CBS at the time. I really like this one.
For some reason, I am constantly surprised by just how good Joseph Cotten was as an actor. His work on Suspence (and on Alfred Hitchcock Presents) was really something special.
Cathy Lewis deserves some accolades for her contributions too. She added a lot to the show, imo.
March 4, 2019 Subject:
Man who like dickesn
Airdate Oct.9th, 1947. Too bad they didn't have audible back then!
I don't understand what is ironic about the final show's title either. How is da Debil synonymous with death or endings or finality, unless you're just wanting it to be so, and why would anyone desire that, or suffer that much infatuation with Ole Scratch that he seems to seal with majestic Irony whatever he breathes on, fitting or not, and assume the infatuation is shared by everyone? It's all so clear and engaging, the show description offered here, except for that disruptive, DISENGAGING, false start.
December 15, 2017 Subject:
The Kettler Method
Remarkable that tv has turned to some of these old radio programs and made a movie out of some. This one in particular has been made into a movie. But for me I so appreciate this original better.
December 22, 2016 Subject:
I've got a question
And you guys are all whizzes! I'm trying to find an OTR episode about a lady mystery writer who witnesses a murder on a beach. She helps the murderer hide the body and ends up marrying him. It all comes unraveled when she discovers him with another woman that turned out to be his sister. It was one of the best and most audacious stories I've heard yet but I can't remember what series it went with! Suspense? The Whistler? Escape? Somebody's bound to know and I'm hoping one of you fellow Suspense lovers can help me out.
October 7, 2016 Subject:
Back in the day, all radio shows were broadcast live. (in fact, for many years, there actually was a law that REQUIRED this, eventually the law was killed) Because the majority of the audience was in the east, most shows, Suspense included, did one performance at 5 pm California time (8 pm eastern) and a 2nd performance at 8 for the west coast. There's many reasons the 2 performances sounded a little different. One would be the actor or director wasn't happy the way a line was delivered the 1st time, another (and this ocurred more often than you might think) is that some people involved with the show had 3 hours to kill, so many would go out to dinner, and a few would have a little "liquid courage," which would most defenitely change the way they delivered a line! The one thing that still amazes me, is how VERY FEW times do you hear an actor make a mistake! The handful that I've noticed are minor. Ther is ONE Suspense episode that I'm reminded of, however, and I think it would fall under "the most unenthusiastic performance on Suspense" category. (I can't think of the title) but look for the one with SONNY TUFTS - He can't get through his opening lines, and shows very little emotion throughout the broadcast. Finally, now that I've listened to every episode multiple times, I must say that the ELLIOTT LEWIS productions stand out as the very best, also, I think HEREBERT MARSHALL was the best male actor (we all know the best female) with JOSEPH COTTEN a very close 2nd. Lately, I've been trying to count the number of times JOSEPH KEARNS made an appearance (in addition to his introduction duties) so far, I've heard him play roles (big and small) in more than 100 episodes. Kearns also played poor Mr. Wilson, on "Dennis the Menace" until he stroked out in 1960. For high quality productions and good entertainment to listen to in addition to Supense, I suggest (most of you already know) "Escape" plus another production by "Mr. Radio" himself, Elliott Lewis, is "CRIME CLASSICS." The majority of the Crime Classics episodes have very good audio quality, too. REMEMBER, pass along this great form of entertainment to everyone you know, as interest in Classic Radio is on a down swing. Don't let it be forgotten, and if you have kids, turn them on to the great Sci Fi shows and horror (the stuff kids love) it's all safe and good entertainment for young people, playlists are posted all over on you tube, and the best part is every one is FREE! Go right ahead and post any questions here, I enjoy providing any help I can! (It gives me something to do 'cause I'm disabled, and can no longer do much else) Keep listening!
September 8, 2016 Subject:
Suspense performed and broadcast twice?
The sound of these is good, very good. Kudos to the uploader.
It is a somewhat odd sensation to recognize differences in the way lines are read between these recordings and the particular versions I have heard for years now. This was so for all the episodes in this group I sampled.
Is it a matter of West Coast vs. East Coast versions? It seems to me I read this explanation somewhere on this site a few years back, but I can't find it.
August 13, 2016 Subject:
Up to a point.
Suspense! was a wonderful radio series, but there are portions of its run that I prefer to skip--the hour-long episodes, the episodes "based on fact," episodes of oft-told tales (like "Frankenstein"), and most of the egotistical William F. Robson's run at producing (which mostly consisted of reruns and/or borrowed scripts),
There are plenty of episodes left to enjoy, and when they were good--they were VERY good.
March 24, 2016 Subject:
After reading the prior reviews, I would think by now, a change of use of "ironic" as a descriptive word for the final episode . . . That being said, after 10 years of my 1st discovering classic radio, I finally feel qualified to comment. Yes, BY FAR, Suspense is the benchmark for radio drama. I wish I could get younger folks to SLOW DOWN and take the time to discover how good this stuff really is! I think if we "OTR" lovers would try to target specific audiences, we could get more admirers. The blind, for example, and those who listen to audiobooks would LOVE these shows. Also, it would make a great "baby sitter" for the kids in the back seat of the SUV with their headphones on. A few final thoughts . . I now think that Joseph Kearns is to Suspense, is what John Dehner is to Gunsmoke! (if I have to explain, listen to every episode of each series) Finally, I hearby volunteer myself to help out with the Internet radio archives in any way I can . . . 14 yrs. ago, I began having pains in my spine, and several years ago I could no longer work, so I have a lot of time, and a lot of passion for "old time radio" (exactly what one needs for this type of work) so, would someone please contact me? I cannot keep this from sounding self-serving, but I'm fairly smart, have wit and charm, I am well read, and I've listened to thousands of episodes of OTR programs. I'm also experienced in doing voice overs, and have a distinctive voice, ideal for continuity and recognition for on going audio projects in intros. I'm working on a you tube channel (to be unique) to feature classic radio. - Charlie Stuckey
July 6, 2015 Subject:
BEST OTR EVER
These dramas are amazing! Wow. I can listen for hours.
March 6, 2015 Subject:
Because of dysautonomia I have to spend many hours per day in bed, but listening to this series has lightened the burden. A heartfelt thanks to the uploaders for hundreds of hours of fine entertainment. This is a wonderful series with thrilling stories and excellent acting.
December 2, 2014 Subject:
I presume it's because the uploader described Suspense as a "milestone", and the final episode was called "Devil's Stone". Not very ironic, I'll grant you, and I would say they've misused the word "milestone" anyway, which really means a particular point during the development of something, rather than a stage that lasted twenty years.
May 18, 2014 Subject:
great series but...
Why the hell is the first half of an episode uploaded? yes, I could have paid more attention, but on my device I only get a narrow strip of view of the content and download several at a time... grumble grumble
February 22, 2014 Subject:
I would also like to know why the person who up-loaded these thinks it is ironic that the last episode was called "Devil's Stone".
I'll be darned if I know why that might make anyone pause for thought.
Anyway... these shows are very good. I love old time radio and I have a large collection, these shows are some of my favorites.
The shows vary in theme... horror, murder mystery, spy stories, supernatural, and of course just plain good ol' suspense.
December 25, 2013 Subject:
I wasted 17 gigs of data and 24 hours of time
This is my first experience with this site. I downloaded this whole collection. It was 17 gigs of data and it took almost 24 hours to download. When I extracted it, all I got was hundreds and hundreds of copies of the same episode. Thanks for nothing internet archive! It was a lousy joke..... I am not amused.
October 24, 2013 Subject:
The Longest Running Favorite
If your program runs long enough you're bound to get a classic or two but Suspense has more than it's fair share. Some of my Favorites are not the most popular but they are worth a listen. They include:
* Pigeon In A Cage
* The Man Who Wanted to be Edward G Robinson (a comedy of sorts starring the man of course)
*Ghost Story (a great Halloween episode)
*The Thing in the Window
*Hitch Hike Poker
*On A Country Road
*Backseat Driver (starring Fibber McGee & Molly- they even introduce them as this instead of their real names Marion & Jim Jordan)
*Christmas for Carole (great Christmas story starring Dennis Day from Jack Benny)
*The Screaming Woman (great Thanksgiving story)
*Too Hot To Live
Try these out and you will stick around for about 500 more.
September 22, 2013 Subject:
In Response To Vic Demise
Paul Frees was one "Voice of Suspense" (sometimes known as "The Man in Black"). Joseph Kearns (TV's first "Mr. Wilson" on "Dennis the Menace" and a longtime Jack Benny cast member) was another. Others included veteran announcer/actor types like Harlow Wilcox, Larry Thor, Berry Kroeger and George Walsh.
February 9, 2013 Subject:
Excellent (and a tip)!
I use "down them all", which is an addon for Firefox. It takes a little fiddling to get used to it, but for pages that have a bunch of individual downloads it works very well. I prefer to do that rather than a zip because you can pause it and come back to it and still listen to those that are finished.
January 23, 2013 Subject:
Suspense waiting for SUSPENSE
Had a problem trying to download the VBR ZIP, so am downloading the individual CD Zip files which seem to be working and am really looking forward to hearing SUSPENSE, thanks.
I especially like Subway Stop for its great attention to detail.
Short stories of danger translate well into Suspense. I recall hearing the very last broadcast of Suspense on Sept 30th, Sunday, 1962. It was a sunny early evening on that sad day. I was in a hospital unit and assigned CQ duty that night.
May 8, 2012 Subject:
This is the sampler page. Its for listening or downloading single shows.
May 8, 2012 Subject:
So we have a choice of downloading episodes one-by-one or in one colossal lump. Any intermediate way?
April 17, 2012 Subject:
This is superb. Excellent quality considering the age. What a collection.
January 18, 2012 Subject:
Who is the announcer???
It sounds to me like Paul Frees- The voice of the Monsanto Journey Through Inner-Space ride at Disneyland (back in the day).
Can anyone confirm this?
January 7, 2012 Subject:
why is it ironic?
this show is brilliant, i mainly want to find out why it's ironic that the last episode was called "Devil Stone"?? i was embarrassed to ask before but i've been doing some research, asking all my most clever friends--can't come up with a satisfying answer at all! somebody, do please let me know about that, it's vexing.
December 23, 2011 Subject:
Practically the best radio mystery show ever
I enjoy this series very much and I much prefer Suspense over some of the other radio mysteries like Inner Sanctum, The Whistler, and Lights Out. I have been listening to Suspense since I was in middle school and high school. I would listen to this show while riding the city bus, or walk around, or while I was out at the malls. These tales are chilling, exciting, and of course suspenseful. The film stars who appeared in them gave it an extra boost of excellent entertainment. Where else could you hear Lucille Ball playing a scheming villianess who will do anything to acheive her ambitions, or Peter Lorre playing a hen-pecked husband who finally murders his shrewish wife and buries her in the cellar, or Danny Kaye playing a ex-con who is suspected in a murder, or Charles Laughton playing a infamous Victorian poisoner who has baffled the police for many years. Suspense is great to listen to for all those who enjoy mysteries or hearing the fabulous stars of the 30's and 40's who has made this series a radio hit.
October 31, 2011 Subject:
VBR ZIP corrupt
Do not download.
September 4, 2011 Subject:
What a treasure trove! A fantastic show with many, many justly acclaimed episodes.
This collection is in excellent sound - and, speaking personally, I was absolutely delighted to find the Robert Montgomery version of In A Lonely Place (which, starring Humphrey Bogart, has long been my favourite film) that I've been after for ages now.
A tight show, Suspense features uniformly first rate performances, music and direction. Dig in!
June 14, 2011 Subject:
Just a quick Example on HOW GREAT Quality wise these versions of Suspense are from the ones that are already here - the episode "Stand in for Murder" which was one of the final episodes ever aired for Suspense is very very listenable on these versions of the show. But you can BARELY understand the words on the old version that are already here. REALLY a TOP notch job by the good people at OTRR! Thank you so much for these!